BitTorrent 8, released last week in beta, contains a sharp new feature that makes it easier than ever to create torrents of your personal files and share them with a personal group of friends or colleagues. The feature implementation isn't expected to change by the time that BitTorrent 8 graduates to its final version, so this How To ought to be viable for some time.
Once you've installed BitTorrent 8 beta (download), take a quick tour of some of the public content channels that come with the program. This part isn't essential, however, it's worth seeing because it's a good place to get some ideas of the kinds of files you can share on your content channel. These pre-existing legal content channels include popular series like the TED educational lectures and legally shared music and movies. Click on one to add it to the channel bar at the top of the program.
Next, go to the My Files button on the right of the channel bar. If you haven't created a channel, this section will be blank. It's a little hard to see, but click the gray arrow just to the left of the My Files button and the Personal Channel wizard will open. Fill in your name, channel title, and upload an avatar to customize it. You can actually come back and do those steps later if you'd like.
To add files to share, Hit the More Content tab, click Browse for File, and navigate to the files that you own the rights to. Once added, you can write a note about the file, choose people to share the link to the torrent with over e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, and engage in real-time conversations with those friends directly from the central pane of the BitTorrent interface.
The link that gets sent out detects if the recipient has BitTorrent 8. If they don't, the link downloads the installer and automatically subscribes them to the channel after installation. If they do, it simply adds the channel. The channel acts as a grouping mechanism for the torrents contained within. Each file added gets its own torrent, so that subscribers don't have to fiddle with choosing files within a torrent.
BitTorrent has also said that it will guarantee the minimum health of the torrent. The equivalent number of seeders for that is still in flux, although BitTorrent lead engineer Thomas Ramplelberg said that it's currently around seven seeders.
The impact of Personal Content Channels on legally owned, personal file-sharing could be massive. It's a great tool for sharing high-resolution audio and video files that you own without having to reduce the file size first. Parents can share pictures and video with each other from school plays or sports events; artists of all kinds could share high-quality versions of both final works and works-in-progress with editors or fans; and businesses with multiple offices could use it to quickly transfer documents and multimedia presentations between disparate locations.
Currently, the beta is available only in English and only for Windows computers. For the duration of the beta, personal content channels will not have file size restrictions, and is free to use. BitTorrent was unable to comment on whether the service would continue to be free of restrictions after BitTorrent 8 final was released, but it's still a killer file-sharing feature that combines the speed of torrents with the crispness of the high-quality files that our portable devices can now create.